This month, we talk to author John David Anderson about his novel, Granted. He talks to us about how he handles difficult subjects such as bullying.
Want to catch up? Check out last month’s Ink Splat here.
This month, John David Anderson has challenged us with something he used when writing Granted that helped him with world building and character creation.
Step 1: Pick a non-human character from fables or fairy tales (ogres, werewolves, trolls, talking pigs, sprites, anthropomorphic bears, mermaids, fairies, etc). Now imagine what their typical day looks like. Do they go to school? What do they study? Do they have a job? What do they do for fun? Where is their favorite place to eat? Whom do they hang out with? What kinds of everyday problems do they face? Write a scene describing your character going about some part of their day. Then…
Step 2: Choose one of the following:
A) Your character crosses paths with a HUMAN: hilarity, drama, and/or conflict
B) Your character is approached by a stranger who says “You have been chosen for a
special mission.” What is that mission? And why was your character chosen?
C) A house falls on your character from out of nowhere, smooshing them DEAD. Continue
your story with whoever steps out of that house.
Aim for between 350 and 1000 words. Submit your response by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You might be published on our website!
An Interview with John David Anderson
Your most recent novel Granted, tells the story of Ophelia Delphinium Fidgets’ first mission as a wish-granting fairy. When did you feel like you really got to know Ophelia? Who in Granted’s cast of characters was the most difficult to write?
I’m not much of a planner, so writing for me is an act of constant discovery; I learn something new about my characters with every page. I really didn’t know the extent of Ophelia’s mettle (or her salty mouth) until I started challenging her. But I will say the more I got to know her, the more I liked her. Honestly both her and Sam were easy to write because they were so much fun to hang out with. The only challenging character in the book was Squint because you are never quite sure whose side he’s on.
Can you tell us a bit about your writing process for Granted? Was it the same as for your previous novels?
With Granted I did some initial research before even sitting down at the computer, which is unusual for me. I read a few books on fairies and learned some things about wish granting just to get in the right mindset. I had the advantage of knowing the ending of the novel very early on in the process (driven by this question of whether all wishes are equally worthy), so then it was a matter of fleshing out the kind of adventure that would lead to the payoff I imagined. I was a little surprised by Sam, though. I knew Ophelia would need a companion at some point, but I don’t think I realized what a big role he would end up playing when he first came on the scene. He soon became my favorite character! It was also the first time I ever sat down at the piano to write a song to accompany something in one of my books.
In all your books, you handle complicated and difficult subjects, such as bullying or the grey areas between right and wrong – while at the same time maintaining humor and lightheartedness. How do you balance when to be silly and when to be serious?
Wish-making is serious business. And magic is not to be trifled with. Seriously, though, good books challenge us to carefully consider our beliefs and our values and to better understand our place in the world and our responsibility to it. However, I also believe in the power of humor and laughter to help us keep everything in perspective. So for me, humor is a requirement; it’s one of the deepest sources of joy in writing (and in life), and I can’t go more than a few chapters without a punchline. Mostly, though, I was raised in a sarcastic family, so I don’t actually know any better. Write what you know, they always say.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned from writing?
That most good writing happens after you get to “The End,” at least for me. Don’t sweat it the first time around. Write the story you want to write, craft characters that intrigue you and conflicts that excite you personally. Once that first draft is finished you can go back and look at the story through a reader’s eyes, matching your vision with their expectations, tightening the plot, deepening the characters, and making those sentences sing. That part only takes seven or eight revisions or so.
If you could tell your younger writing self something, what would it be?
Be adventurous. Explore. Try new foods. Be more aware. Eavesdrop on conversations and write down the wacky stuff people say. Keep your eyes and ears open. Absorb the world around you. Soak it up. Save it and savor it. You’ll come back to it later.
Society of Young Inklings News
- It’s time for the Inklings Book Contest! Submit your work by March 15. We can’t wait to read it! Winners and finalists will be announced on our blog on April 2.
- Spring Writer’s Circles are here! Join a small circle of dedicated writers who will encourage, provide specific feedback, and inspire you. Your group will be facilitated by a pro-writer and mentor through an online video chat
- Confused, lost, frustrated, miserable … these are not productive ways to feel! Still, stuck happens, no matter how creative you are. That’s why we invented the Idea Storm. This online masterclass will help lead you to “Eureka!” moments
- Join our society! We’ll send you a FREE Inklings Starter Kit with tips and tricks personalized to your creativity style.
John David Anderson is the author of several critically-acclaimed novels for young people. He lives with his patient wife and brilliant twins in Indianapolis, Indiana, right next to a State park and a Walmart. He does not wear ties. He enjoys hiking, reading, chocolate, spending time with his family, playing the piano, chocolate, putting off the dishes, watching movies, and chocolate.